PITTSBURGH — The Bruins had started to file off the ice, their celebration completed, the win in hand. Patrice Bergeron had watched the puck that he tipped fly past him, past Marc-Andre Fleury, and into the Penguins’ net, giving the Bruins a much-needed overtime win. He had watched the on-ice officials rule the goal a good one.
But it wasn’t that easy. It never is with these Bruins.
So they paused, some on the bench, some in the tunnel, Tuukka Rask unwilling to come too far out of his net. They waited. The review went to the NHL Situation Room in Toronto. And the Bruins seemed to hold their breaths.
“You’re in an opposing building, and it seemed like they were showing the angles that really looked like a high stick, and then once in a while you’d see the real angle and it didn’t look so bad,” coach Claude Julien said, laughing, after the ruling on the ice had been upheld and the Bruins had their 3-2 overtime win and two points in the standings.
“Upon review, I guess they decided to take the good angle and call it a goal. We really needed that. It was a bit of relief.”
Ultimately, the ruling from Toronto said that “video review was inconclusive in determining whether the puck hit glove or stick before entering the Pittsburgh net. Both the glove and stick were at or below the height of the crossbar.”
The win pushed the Bruins past the Maple Leafs, who lost to the Capitals on Wednesday, and into the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference. It also gave them some confidence, confidence that had been lost amid their season-long slide and recent results.
As Zdeno Chara said, “We know that we need to be better, and we will be better. I don’t think that putting more pressure on this team is kind of helpful, but I think at the same time we know that we’ve got to pick it up.”
The team had grown desperate, as could be seen in the words of newly named Delaware North CEO Charlie Jacobs on Tuesday, and as could be seen in the lengths to which Julien went to carve out the win.
In a rare move – especially in the first game of a back-to-back – Julien shortened his bench in the second and third periods, playing just three lines. He also switched up his lines, using Bergeron to center Milan Lucic and Daniel Paille in the third. That was partly to ensure that he had more experienced players on the ice at all times to counteract the potent Pittsburgh attack and the Penguins’ advantage with the last change.
Seth Griffith did not see the ice in the final period, and Craig Cunningham had just one 25-second shift in the period. Loui Eriksson, meanwhile, did not play the second half of the period after he took a slash from Robert Bortuzzo in the second.
“After a while, you need those wins,” Julien said. “Hopefully it doesn’t affect us too much tomorrow [vs. the Devils]. But I think right now that was important. Those were our best players and our best players came up big for us.”
The Lucic-Bergeron-Paille trio did particularly well, with Paille and Lucic taking the assists on the Bruins’ second goal, which came at 15:37 of the second period and broke a 1-1 tie. Lucic took the puck down the left side of the ice, got hit by Bortuzzo, with the puck going toward the net. Bergeron eventually put home the goal.
That came after the Penguins had opened the scoring at 3:37 of the first on a score by Beau Bennett through the legs of Chara. Chara, though, came back to score his first goal since Oct. 18 at 17:57 of the period on a slap shot from above the left circle.
But Evgeni Malkin tied the score again just 14 seconds into the third, which set up the OT.
And that took an effort from some players who hadn’t been at their best of late. Lucic had two assists and was a plus-three. Bergeron had the two goals, including the winner. Rask made 37 saves on 39 shots.
It wasn’t all good, though. The Bruins, as they had against the Hurricanes on Sunday, went long stretches of the game without a shot on goal. They started slowly, too, as they also had done against Carolina. But they got better performances from some players they needed to get better performances from, and what was the most important, they got the two points.
And that was absolutely crucial, especially after three consecutive losses in shootouts or overtime.
“It wasn’t a perfect game, but I think the win was really important for us,” Julien said. “You talk about where’s the confidence? Well, you need to win some games to get some confidence. It feels good to get that win in overtime, finding a way to win, I think that feels good.
“But by no means do we feel or think that we’re out of the woods here. It’s a good start.”